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Dive deeper into where student demand is coming from in 2021

Real-time data showing international student demand from specific cities and for particular programs is what’s needed by recruiters in 2021 – with insights from Craig Riggs (ICEF Monitor) and Randall Martin (BCCIE)

In a normal year, educators would be sending staff overseas to meet prospects and agents in preparation for the crucial fall 2021 intake. But travel restrictions make this virtually impossible, so the question that arises is,

How do we recruit enough students through other means – students who are the right fit for our programs?

A recent IDP Connect webinar, Trends and Challenges in Canadian International Student Recruitment, addressed that very question.

Leading the webinar were IDP Connect’s Christine Wach and Prem Modha, who presented recent search activity by students in a dozen international markets for Canadian educators. Guests Craig Riggs, editor of ICEF Monitor, and Randall Martin, executive director of the British Columbia Council for International Education (BCCIE), provided invaluable context and insights.

Granular, real-time data matter so much in 2021

The slides presented in the webinar – which capture real-time rather than historical data – show how IDP Connect clients can not only discover promising countries for their programs, but also cities in which there is high demand for fields of study as well as particular program niches.

A couple of significant trends you can see in the slide below are that:

• Interest from Brazilian students has been strong at various points through the past year. After a dip in early 2021, it’s rising again right now.

• Turkish students are increasingly researching study options in Canada. Searches have jumped from about 4,000 in April 2020 to more than 10,000 a couple of months ago.

If a client were considering intensifying their recruitment in Brazil, the country-level trend would provide confidence – but they could drill deeper still into the IDP Connect dashboard to the city and program level, as you can see from the slides below.

“Swarm ball” can only take you so far

BCCIE’s Randall Martin says that real-time data is a game changer for recruiters heading into an intensely competitive post-COVID recovery period.

“Using historical data is fine, but the landscape is changing so quickly and we need to layer on real-time data to get an accurate sense of where demand is coming from.”

Dr. Martin explained that in the past, international recruiting sometimes seemed to be a bit like “swarm ball,” the term describing how kids playing soccer will often run around a field in a clump following the ball. A better idea, of course, would be players spreading out in strategic formation to pass to each other and score. Similarly, educators have tended to follow competitors to a student market believing that “if everyone’s there, we should be too.”

Such thinking has limitations, and real-time data can deliver needed additional information about where it’s best to allocate marketing resources.

For example, let’s say Educator X was recruiting in the same country market as Educator Y. If Educator X had an IDP Connect dashboard, they would also know which city to focus on and which program(s) to promote based on current demand. Outreach (e.g., social media advertising) could then become much more focused on students who are the most likely to enrol, rather than simply “students in this country.”

Data to drive diversification

If anything has driven home the need for diversification, it’s this pandemic. In April, the Canadian government closed borders to India given new variants there. China is becoming as much a competitive destination country as a source of students.

Meanwhile, demand is spiking in several emerging markets.

These markets may not yet be sending as many students to Canada as India and China, but in time, they could. For example, IRCC data shows that between 2015–2019, the number of students studying in Canada from Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Iran, the Philippines, and Vietnam has grown by more than 200%.

ICEF Monitor’s Craig Riggs noted that emerging markets can be quite complex. “That’s where the granularity of IDP Connect data is so helpful,” he notes, adding that,

“You can start with that real-time data as a foundation and then you ask, ‘Can they get visas easily? What about their currency compared to ours, and are there flights leaving from there? Do we have a strong diplomatic presence in the area, and can we get help from embassy staff in the country? Are there scholarships available?’ Answers to those questions are also key.”

Strength through diplomacy

Both Mr. Riggs and Dr. Martin impressed the need for bridge-building between Canadian education stakeholders and governments and their counterparts overseas – activity that can lay a foundation for individual institutions to recruit more successfully.

As Mr. Riggs noted,

“Canada as well as other major destinations have benefited from underlying demand factors in major markets for the better part of the last 20 years …. first China, then India. But we’re entering a whole new era, and everyone’s going to have to get their hustle on. Strong partnerships between institutions and governments are going to be crucial.”

Please feel free to reach out to chat with us about how IDP Connect can provide you with the data you need to recruit successfully in 2021 – and beyond! We’d love to hear from you.

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